A Surefire Cure for Ministry Burnout

Friends, family and co-workers will let you down, but you know where to turn.
Friends, family and co-workers will let you down, but you know where to turn. (Flickr )

Do you find yourself continually disappointed in ministry despite giving your very best effort?

Perhaps you have been let down by people or have even been betrayed by close friends. Maybe your disappointment springs from low attendance, unfaithful volunteers or sparse offerings.

Many enthusiastic men and women who have given their life to full-time ministry are pummeled by the criticism of close friends or by leaders in the church. There is a great possibility that if you have served in ministry for more than a year or two, all of these things have contributed to your dismay.

So the question is a valid one and applicable to nearly anyone and everyone who serves in ministry, "What do you do when you find yourself disappointed in the ministry?"

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I believe that what you do is what you would tell any other discouraged person in your church to do—you find your uncommon strength in the Lord.

When your circumstances are not what you would choose in the natural, it is in that moment that you must choose deliberately and joyfully to walk by faith and not by sight.

When everyone else has let you down, you must read the Bible for eternal wisdom and for godly direction. You must open the pages of this treasured Book and hunker down in its stability. How encouraging it is to read the life stories of other men and women who have served God during their tenure on planet Earth! How wonderful to know that the very same God who led Moses, Abraham, David and Esther now leads you!

How gratifying it is to discover in the New Testament that our labor is not in vain but that heaven stands to its feet and applauds a man or a women who chooses to stay the course when all others have thrown in that infamous towel!

And most importantly of all, you must choose to spend time on your knees. The fiercest battles of self-esteem, calling and lifetime purpose will be conquered on one's knees. Prayer is the single most important victory strategy for a man or a woman who is overrun by dashed hopes and beat down by the daily grind.

It is in that place of sweet intimacy and heart-to-heart communion that it is possible to hear God's voice and once again be enthused with God's calling. Nothing eternal is ever accomplished without the exclamation point of prayer. No battle is ever completely over until a soldier surrenders to God's authority while in prayer.

Prayer has the power to comfort, to strengthen and to renew. It's not enough just to talk about prayer or just to believe in prayer. You must pray.

Pray without ceasing when you find yourself discouraged and distressed by the demands of ministry. Pray when others criticize your valiant efforts and pray when numbers are low. Pray in spite of sporadic attendance and programs that fail. Pray vibrantly and with gusto! If nothing goes up, then nothing will come down!

Leading worship, preparing a message, cleaning the church, working in the nursery and parking cars, while all an integral part of ministry, cannot be defined as "praying." Prayer is what makes all of those things work with the ease of the Holy Spirit! Prayer is what brings joy to the most fractious days of ministry.

If you are discouraged today, take heart! Rather than try to impress the church leadership with your ministry acumen, remember that it is the Lord that you serve and not people!

And while you're at it, take a deep breath. Have a cup of coffee with a good friend. Go for a long walk and enjoy the wonder of creation. Smile at a child. Play checkers with a senior citizen. Tell a young mom at the grocery store that she is doing a good job. Buy somebody else's lunch.

The Lord sees the smallest deed done in His Name and He will certainly accomplish what concerns you!

"For the Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, Oh Lord, is everlasting. Surely You will not forget the work of Your hands" (Psalm 138:8).

Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, including No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, was released last August. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's "A Jolt of Joy" program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network. Connect with Carol or inquire about her speaking to your group at justjoyministries.com.

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